The scale of Britain's industrial expansion during the 19th century was enormous and unprecedented. Fuelled by a rapid increase in international trade and a growing middle-class demand for consumer goods, Britain led the world in the development of rail networks and steamships.
Steam & Speed: Industry, Power & Social Change in 19th-Century Britain
The emergence of Britain in the Victorian period as the world's most powerful trading nation was the direct result of the process of industrialisation that had transformed the nation since the latter part of the 18th century.
Steam & Speed: The Power of Steam at Sea
At the heart of the complex structure of international trade developed by the Victorians and upon which their process of wealth generation depended, were efficient means of communication. It was the successful development by the Victorians of steamships and railways, together with the electric telegraph that gave them their unique place in history.
Steam & Speed: The Power of Steam on Land
Steam locomotives were extensively used on colliery and quarry lines, particularly in the north east of England, and experimentally in other areas, during the first decades of the nineteenth century, with the technology being constantly improved by engineers such as George Stephenson and Richard Trevithick.
The 19th century was a period of huge growth in Britain, which had a profound effect on art and design. The Industrial Revolution saw Britain become a major manufacturing power, as displayed in the Great Exhibition of 1851. The Victorian period saw the British Empire reach its peak, and designers increasingly looked to the East for inspiration.
The Great Exhibition
The Great Exhibition in 1851 was the first international exhibition of manufactured products. It was organised by Henry Cole and Prince Albert, and held in a purpose-built Crystal Palace in Hyde Park. Many of the objects in the Exhibition were used as the first collection for the South Kensington Museum which opened in 1857 and later became the Victoria and Albert Museum.